Three Urban Sustainability Projects Making Global Strides

By Ashley Halligan, an analyst at Software Advice

Cities across the globe are paving the way for a brighter environmental future, tackling long-standing ecological crises with rather innovative approaches. Some cities have been recognized for decades as leaders in sustainability measures; however, new cities are arising as stars as they address challenging histories--some being social turmoil, and others--absolute filth. Here are three lesser known urban sustainability projects that are gaining quick momentum. 

Medellin, Colombia has been commonly referenced as one of the most violent cities in the world. But recently, it's been in the limelight for a pretty drastic makeover led by its current mayor, Alonso Salazar. Medellin was recently awarded the 2012 Sustainable Transport Award by the Institute for Transportation & Development Policy following its implementation of several public transportation developments. Including the introduction of a ridesharing program and public bicycle system, perhaps its most creative addition is its 1,300 foot escalator linking its formerly poorest neighborhood to the city's center. The city's poorest neighborhood--Comuna 13--has seen a drastic reduction in crime following the escalator installation. Former mayor, Alonso Salazar Jaramillo, believes the lower crime rate is partly due to the city's makeover--illustrating the relationship between a city's physical environment and social impact. 

(photo courtesy of the Office of the Mayor, Medellin)

(photo courtesy of the Office of the Mayor, Medellin)

Naples, Italy is another example of a city recognized for a crisis--though Naples' crisis has been its trash crisis, typically attributed to the Camorra (a local Mafia organization). With trash literally burying its city streets, parks, and Mount Vesuvius National Park, activist groups and residents have taken bold, effective action. 

photo courtesy of Ashley Halligan

(photo courtesy of Ashley Halligan)

Displaying the power of the people, residents have approached the situation creatively by hosting flash mobs, guerilla gardening events. Furthermore, Naples will be a part of the World Cleanup 2012, when Let's do it! team will target the city's trash this September.

A Triple Pundit article published earlier this year conveyed just how powerful the efforts of the people have proven, "Local activism, which takes the form of flash mobs, guerilla gardening, and innovative job creation, is certainly inspiring. But what is occurring in Naples could teach citizens around the world about how apathy from both government and business cannot be deterrents to revitalizing communities.”

In the United StatesPhiladelphia, Pennsylvania is doing its part to become a leader in environmental recovery. In 2008, the United States Department of Energy labeled Philly as a "Solar America City," making the alarming statement that it showed "both a compelling need and an important opportunity to accelerate solar application." Mayor Mike Nutter was elected in 2008 and vowed to make the city "the nation's greenest city." Since then, the city has aggressively approached 14 initial target goals which include diverting 70 percent of solid waste from area landfills. 

(Credit: Photo by K. Ciappa for GPTMC)

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority's (SEPTA) Wayside Energy Storage project was recently rolled out as well, which is adding to the "green" efforts of Philadelphia. The project essentially replaces electricity used by the city's subway with energy created and captured through the brake system. The project is expected to reduce overall electricity consumption by approximately 1,600 megawatt-hours annually.

These cities (among many others) serve as an inspiring reminder that even in the case of volatile, challenging conditions, environmental improvement is very possible.